Organophosphorus pesticide (OPP) toxicity is believed to be mediated through inhibition of acetylcholinesterase (AChE). Given their widespread distribution in aquatic systems and their ability to undergo chemical transformation, their environmental impacts at sublethal concentrations in nontarget organisms have become an important question. We conducted a number of mammalian-cell genotoxic and gene expression assays and examined cellular biochemical changes that followed low-dose exposure of MCF-7 cells to fenitrothion, diazinon, and the aqueous degradate of diazinon, 2-isopropyl-6-methyl-4-pyrimidinol (IMP). After exposure to the OPPs at low concentrations (10(-12) M to 10(-8) M), greater than twofold elevations in micronucleus formation were noted in MCF-7 cell cultures that went on to exhibit greater than 75% clonogenic survival; these levels of chromosomal damage were comparable to those induced by 10(-6) M benzo[a]pyrene, a known genotoxic agent. At this low concentration range, a fenitrothion-induced twofold elevation in B-cell leukemia/lymphoma-2 (BCL-2) and cytochrome P450 isoenzyme (CYP1A1) gene expressions was observed. Principal component analysis-linear discriminant analysis (PCA-LDA) of derived infrared (IR) spectra of vehicle control (nonexposed) and OPP-exposed cells highlighted that both fenitrothion and diazinon induced marked biochemical alterations in the lipid, protein, and DNA/RNA absorbance regions. Our findings demonstrate that the two OPP parent chemicals and IMP degradate can mediate a number of toxic effects or cellular alterations at very low concentrations. These are independent of just selective inhibition of AChE, with potential consequences for nontarget organisms exposed at environmentally relevant concentrations. Further assays on relevant aquatic organism cell lines are now recommended to understand the mechanistic low-dose toxicity of these chemicals present in aquatic systems.